POINT LOMA – He almost looks out of place – the stylishly dressed man in a pinstriped jacket, black hat and matching black pants, standing amid a group of Correia Middle School students wearing Hawaiian shirts. But then he hushes the students, begins tapping his foot on the stage floor and lifts a shining silver trumpet to his mouth.The students, who moments before were laughing, talking and fidgeting, lift their own instruments and begin playing along. Suddenly, the group comes together seamlessly, filling the middle school auditorium with the rhythms of Latin jazz. But it's not just any jazz arrangement the students are playing. It is the jazz composition of a Grammy-winning musician. And the band's leader today, the man with the shining silver trumpet, is the Grammy Award winner who wrote the arrangement For three days this week, music students at Correia Middle School had the opportunity to work with Brian Lynch, the 2007 winner of the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year for his album, “The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Recording Project – Simpatico.”
Lynch's visit to the school was arranged by parent Glen Fisher, who has played with Lynch in the past. Fisher, founder of the nonprofit First Friday Music Club, which focuses on expanding musical opportunities for students, secured funding for the visit from the Ryan Family Charitable Foundation and Yamaha.
Lynch held an improvisation master class with students and led several jazz band rehearsals, all in preparation for a final concert Wednesday, during which he performed two of his own arrangements with the school jazz band.
“I think I learn more than any of the kids do when I do this,” said Lynch, who lived in San Diego for a year before moving to New York, where he is on the faculty of New York University. “When working with students, especially this age, you're always breaking things down and increasing your own conceptual awareness of what you are doing.”
Marc Dwyer, Correia's music director, said Lynch is the first Grammy winner to visit the school. He said the experience was invaluable, highlighting for students what it takes to be a professional musician and providing them with one-of-a-kind lessons about music fundamentals.
“I have very able jazz improv students and what he's done is come in and helped take them to the next level,” Dwyer said.
Taking students to the “next level” meant a variety of things for each student.
For John-Lancaster Finley, 13, the workshops allowed him to understand for the first time that a solo should have a beginning, middle and an end.
Matt Vacchi, a 14-year-old trombone player, said Lynch helped him develop the courage to solo more often.
And Katie Pickle, 14, developed a deeper understanding of building scales and rhythm patterns.
“It's really pretty amazing for me, after being a musician for just four and a half years, to work with a Grammy winner,” Katie said. “I definitely learned a lot about improvs. He can do such crazy things. He can build off nothing and make amazing notes and musical sounds and some pretty crazy rhythms.”
As the students squeezed in a few final moments of rehearsal with Lynch before their performance Wednesday, parent Laura Calloca stood in the wings, proudly snapping pictures.
“This is like a kid in Little League playing baseball with Tony Gwynn,” she said.